Trending Amenities and
How to Make Them Work
Over the past decade, people's expectations from their homes have evolved. A growing demographic of high-income renters has generated a highly competitive market for multifamily housing developments.
"I think the big change I have seen over the years is that people want bigger and bigger, more and more amenity spaces. Developers are putting a lot more effort and money into them", says LCM Partner Todd Douglas, AIA, LEED AP BC+C. "The trend was already shifting in that direction, and now it has taken a whole new life after the pandemic."
Impact of COVID-19
The pandemic has forced the residential typology to satisfy multi-faceted roles of at-home comfort, work, recreation, and safer socialization. We sat down with LCM's architects Todd Douglas, Erin Rensink, Matthew Schreiber, and Jonathan Frink to discuss how they meet these expectations when designing for multifamily housing developments and what are the amenity trends in this ever-evolving housing market.
"I don't know if the term ‘arms race’ is appropriate, but it is a little bit like that", says Jonathan. "When the prospective tenant has the choice between sixteen places to live, sometimes the amenities are what can make or break the deal". Young professionals are looking for a full living experience set within a community, and here are some amenities that are gaining traction.
Working from Home
The pandemic has created a flexibility for workers in terms of where and how they work. What used to be one large multi-purpose/conference room in the traditional clubhouse of a community development is now split into multiple individual workstations. The result is a co-working space where people can work remotely – together.
Todd shares, “We are designing these singular booths where you can plug in your laptop and do your conferences. Because, with a lot of people working from home, this gives them an opportunity to get out of their apartment, grab a cup of coffee, and go into this booth.” Matt adds, “It’s nice to get out to a comfortable, quiet space, especially if you are living with someone else and you need to be on a conference call.”
Health and Wellness
The concept of fitness is also undergoing a massive overhaul. In all our current projects, we are breaking up the fitness area into a traditional gym section and a separate space for virtual fitness. These spaces have big screens on the wall and equipment to allow for streaming and virtual workout sessions.
Additionally, health and wellness amenities differ by region. For example, our Colorado project has a ski tech. “Geographically we have projects in different regions of the country, and what works in Arizona, doesn’t necessarily work in Illinois”, says Jonathan. “You’re right, even the size of the gym will often depend on the climate.” Matt agrees.
Rest & Relaxation
Tenants are looking for an upscale experience in their complexes. Erin shares, “The pool at Converge (LCM’s multifamily project in Peoria, Arizona) is designed to have a resort feel. There is a longer rectangular section where you can swim laps, and then there is a curvier section with benches, palm trees, plants, and fountains. It’s essentially a pool, but it’s going to provide a lot of different spaces for different activities. Our landscape consultants really drove that concept. So, I think it really helps to have good consultants on board that are also well-versed with the project type”.
Some other clubhouse trends include game-rooms, lounges, outdoor bar and dining, grilling stations, outdoor firepits, and a variety of seating to accommodate different functions. “Tot lots and dog runs are going in. Even life-sized chess!”, Todd exclaims. “What we learned real quick in Arizona is that your tot-lots have to be completely shaded. Otherwise, your slide is going to be a billion degrees,” he laughingly adds. “Learning about the region you are designing for is a big thing.” For LCM’s project in Ballpark Village, Arizona, we took advantage of the surrounding landscape with two rooftop decks, one looking towards the mountains and the other looking towards the ballparks.
The increasing trend of online shopping has required larger, more secure package storage solutions. Jonathan says, “Amazon has created the need for a whole room. The volume of packages is so much that you’d need a dedicated staff just to handle the packages if you didn’t have the new automated system”. As designers, we coordinate the spatial provision for the third-party automated parcel system that is the new trend of multifamily housing. “It has changed the dynamic of the clubhouse design, as you need to provide a direct secure access from the outside for the residents”, Todd adds.
Matt brings up the very relevant question of accessibility to these locker systems, which are sometimes more than 8 ft tall. “It still surprises me that you can get away with these new lockers not having to be all accessible, when all the mailboxes have that requirement”, to which Erin adds, "it's a very new thing. Maybe that will be next.”
“There are monetary incentives out there for sustainability. And, as Jonathan referred to ‘the arms war’ in residential real estate, many of these tenants are savvy – they want to see it. Especially young professionals and college students. I’m already starting to get questions about that from developers for future projects”, shares Todd.
“A good example that ties into that is the vehicle charging locations”, says Jonathan. “In the first project we did in Colorado a couple of years ago, they didn’t want to put them in. And for the second project we’re working on now, they want charging stations everywhere. In the span of just two years, things have changed. They want charging station capacity to increase five-fold throughout the life of the project. That’s just the way it’s going. It’s become necessary. And it’s encouraging to see they have that in mind.”
It's a credit to the developers LCM has been working with that amenities have been an important part of our multifamily designs and not simply an after-thought. For amenities to work, it’s important that they are integrated from the beginning into the larger concept of the design.
We have some exciting artistic expressions in our upcoming projects. In Colorado, we have some heavy timber frame construction for the clubhouse. “It’s a really nice, authentic way to build something,” says Jonathan. “In our Converge project, we introduced a new feature: an expansive mural to be created in the clubhouse by a local artist. It was an effort on our part to involve a local artist, and it was nice to see that the developer was completely onboard with it”, shared Todd. “We took a page from that book and are going to do that at another project too.”
It’s about creating that balance, so the developer can be competitive in the market, but also get a return for their investment. “At the end of the day, you’re not going to be able to put in some ridiculously expensive amenity if there’s no return on the value”, says Todd.